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MAURITANIA - AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVELForeign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against non-essential travel to Mauritania due to the rise in terrorist threats against Western interests.
Regional Advisory for northern and eastern Mauritania, especially the desert areas north of the Oualata-Tichit-Ouadane-Zouérat line and the border areas with Algeria, Mali and Morocco
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against all travel to the northern and eastern parts of the country, especially the desert areas north of the Oualata-Tichit-Ouadane-Zouérat line, as well as to the border areas with Algeria, Mali and Morocco, due to the risk of banditry and kidnapping.
See Security for more information.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
The first round of presidential elections is scheduled for June 21, 2014. Demonstrations may occur in the period surrounding the elections, including during the campaign period, which is expected to take place from June 6 to 19. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Increased threat of attacks and kidnappings
In 2013, the French military assisted the Malian government in efforts to repel armed rebels. Terrorist groups in the region declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners. While the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali has been supporting the transitional authorities in stabilizing the region since July 2013, citizens of countries supporting the intervention are still at particular risk, but all travellers should exercise increased vigilance in the region.
Northern and eastern parts of the country especially the desert areas north of the Oualata-Tichit-Ouadane-Zouérat line, and the border areas with Algeria, Mali and Morocco (see Advisory)
Extremist groups and armed smugglers are active in these areas and there is a risk of banditry and kidnap. Armed Tuareg rebels are active in the northern area beyond the Oualata-Tichit-Ouadane-Zouérat line. Attacks and thefts of personal belongings and vehicles have occurred.
Seek the advice of local authorities when planning land trips if you choose to travel to these regions despite this warning. Leave a detailed itinerary with family or friends and register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service.
The threat of terrorism, which is present throughout the country, is heightened by the regional instability. The risk is high outside major urban centres. Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times.
There is a high risk of kidnapping in Mauritania, and Westerners are a favourite target. In past instances, hostages have been detained for several months before being released. Be particularly cautious in the region of Inchiri (Akjoujt is the capital) as well as in areas bordering Morocco and Mali.
Arrange for a trustworthy escort familiar with the country. Use varied and unpredictable routes and schedules when moving from one place to another. Exercise a high awareness of your personal security at all times, monitor local developments and contact the Consulate of Canada in Nouakchott for advice and assistance.
Petty crime such as pickpocketing, theft, and residential and vehicle break-ins occurs, as does assault. Avoid unpatrolled beaches at all times because of the risk of banditry and carjacking. Avoid beaches and "le Cinquième" district in Nouakchott after dark.
Travel in groups, remain alert, and ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Demonstrations occur, particularly on Fridays, and have the potential to turn violent suddenly. They can significantly disrupt traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Be aware of the extreme conditions you may face if you choose to travel to the 20-30 km wide "no man's land" that separates Mauritania and Western Sahara. Unexploded landmines have been laid in these areas and can shift with the movement of sand and dunes. You are isolated after crossing police checkpoints located on either side of this zone. If you choose to travel to this area, travel in convoys, be accompanied by an experienced guide, remain on well-used tracks and carry sufficient supplies. You should also seek the advice of local authorities and leave an itinerary with family and friends.
Road conditions are generally fair to poor. There are four major roads in the country. Three run between Nouakchott and Rosso, Nouakchott and Atar (through Akjoujt), and Nouakchott and Néma. The road between Nouakchott and Néma leads to the border with Mali. Trucks use this road to transport containers from Mauritanian seaports. A new road connects the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Most other roads are unpaved sand tracks.
Driving can be treacherous in Mauritania. Traffic laws and regulations are rarely respected. Vehicles may occasionally be forced off the roads by drifting sand and dunes. Roaming animals, bush taxis, poor driving habits and poorly maintained vehicles frequently cause accidents. Roadside assistance is non-existent. Wear seatbelts at all times. Avoid driving at night.
Rent vehicles with drivers. In the event of an accident or vehicle breakdown, the driver and rental company will be held responsible. If the vehicle is rented without a driver, the person renting the vehicle will be held responsible. In the event of an accident, a police report must be filed. Should an accident result in injury or death, drivers are detained until a judge determines responsibility.
Police conduct routine roadblocks in major cities such as Nouakchott. They may ask for proof of identity and a driver's licence.
Public transportation is generally unsafe and unreliable.
Passenger rail service operates between Nouadhibou and Zouérat. Book in advance.
Sailing in the port at Nouadhibou can be dangerous because of the significant number of shallow shipwrecks.
Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
There are two official land border crossings into Senegal: Diama and Rosso. Pedestrians and vehicles are permitted to cross over the dam at Diama, and by ferry at Rosso. The road leading to Diama may be impassable during the rainy season. Long delays at the border are common. Ferry crossings at Rosso are available only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Do not cross the Senegal River by pirogue as it is illegal and dangerous.
Reports indicate that some southern border crossings are closed until further notice in an attempt to contain the Ebola outbreak.
See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Mauritanian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Mauritania.
Canadians must obtain a visa prior to arriving in Mauritania.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
It is illegal to import alcoholic beverages, firearms and pork products.
Mauritanian currency (ouguiya) is not convertible and cannot be imported or exported. There is no limit on the importation of foreign currency but it should be declared on arrival. The exportation of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Please consult our Children page for more information.
Health entry requirements
You may be required to produce proof of cholera
Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination before allowing entry. Consult the World Health Organization’s country list to obtain information on this country’s requirements.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupucture or or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
This country is in the African Meningitis Belt, an area where there are many cases of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal infection. Travellers who may be at high risk should consider getting vaccinated. High-risk travellers include those living or working with the local population (e.g., health care workers) or those travelling to crowded areas or taking part in large gatherings.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in West Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in West Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers at high risk visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in West Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus and yellow fever.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently an outbreak of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a viral disease spread through the bite of an infected mosquito that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. Protect yourself from mosquito bites, particularly around sunrise and sunset. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
Rift Valley fever
Rift Valley fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can be fatal. It is spread to humans through contact with infected animal blood or tissues, eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy, or from a mosquito bite. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from bites and avoid infected animals and unpasteurized dairy. There is no vaccine available for Rift Valley fever.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in West Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & Culture
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and detention page for more information.
An International Driving Permit is recommended.
Illegal or restricted activities
The use of drugs and alcohol is prohibited.
Homosexual activity is illegal.
Photography of military installations, airports, government buildings and religious buildings is forbidden.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times. Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.
Children of Mauritanian fathers automatically acquire Mauritanian citizenship at birth, regardless of where they were born. The father’s permission is required for any child to travel, even if the child is travelling on a foreign passport.
Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in the country’s customs, laws and regulations. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. It would be prudent for women to wear a headscarf and cover their arms and legs.
During the lunar month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim calendar), refrain from drinking, eating, and smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around June 28, 2014.
The currency is the Ouguiya (MRO). Mauritania is a cash-based economy. It is not convertible. Only U.S. dollars and euros are accepted for exchange. A few hotels in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou accept credit cards. Traveller’s cheques are not accepted.
Natural Disasters & Climate
Natural Disasters & Climate
Mauritania is very hot and receives extremely little rain throughout the year.
The rainy season extends from July to October. Transportation routes, power and telecommunications systems may be affected in some areas, and some roads may be impassable due to flooding. Exercise caution, monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities.
Nouakchott - Consulate of Canada
Rabat-Souissi - Embassy of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, contact the Embassy of Canada in Rabat-Souissi, Morocco, and follow the instructions. You may also make a collect call to the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885.
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